The abstracts for the Digitizing the Stage program can be found below. Please note that the conference program is subject to change, and we expect to add several abstracts over the course of the next few weeks with further confirmations of titles and availability.

Monday, July 10

Staging unknown quantities: explorations in the digital archive

Bed, blood, and beyond: A quantitative analysis of early modern stage props

Brett Greatley-Hirsch, University of Leeds

Quantitative studies of early modern drama, including authorship attribution, typically focus exclusively on patterns of language. However, a play is more than its dialogue, and the same empirical approaches might also be employed to uncover latent patterns in non-verbal features of the drama. Stage properties or ‘props’ are one such feature, and this paper presents a quantitative analysis of their frequency and distribution in plays written for the commercial London theatres between 1590 and 1609.

Women and the Early Modern Stage: Reception, circulation, performance

Erin McCarthy, National University of Ireland-Galway

The European Research Council-funded project “RECIRC: The Reception and Circulation of Early Modern Women’s Writing, 1550–1700” is a collaborative, interdisciplinary effort to develop a large-scale quantitative account of the reception and circulation of women’s writing. By extension, it also offers a reassessment of how gender shapes ideas of authorship and writing. This paper will introduce the project’s digital tools and methods with particular attention to its taxonomy of early modern reception types. Illustrative examples will highlight the reception and circulation of dramatic texts written by women as well as documentary evidence of women’s performance. Ultimately, it will show how RECIRC’s digital approach offers a way to compare seemingly scant and disparate evidence of women’s participation in early modern drama.

Shakespeare’s Purchase of Blackfriars Gatehouse 1613: A digital analysis

Alan H. Nelson, University of California-Berkeley (emeritus)

As a major contributor to the Folger Shakespeare Library’s Shakespeare Documented website, I have benefited immensely from digital resources and techniques in the transcription and interpretation of Early Modern documents. A case in point is the nexus of documents related to Shakespeare’s purchase of the Blackfriars Gatehouse in 1613. Close analysis of nearly a dozen physical documents reveals that the two surviving copies of the original indenture dated 10 March were cut from the same piece of parchment; both were taken away by the seller, Henry Walker, until the associated mortgage was paid; the copy ultimately intended for Shakespeare the buyer, not the copy intended for Walker, the seller, was carried by Walker to the Rolls Office in Chancery Lane for enrollment; the mortgage dated 11 March was paid promptly, not deferred as all but one of Shakespeare’s biographers have claimed; Shakespeare’s use of trustees is finally capable of being explained. In sum, the high degree of detail forced on the  researcher by digital photographic techniques compells the researcher to address issues previously overlooked; but digital facilities also provide resources which may enable solutions to seemingly insoluble problems.

Flash of genius: lightning talks from the digital archive

Brief insights into work on the Rose Revealed project (Johanna Schmitz, University of Southern Illinois, Edwardsville), the Folger Shakespeare Library’s digital asset platform project (Stacey Redick, Folger), and the NUI-Galway Abbey Theatre digital archive project (Barry Houlihan, NUI-Galway).

Reimagining the stage: audiovisual experiments

Upon the Platform(s) Where We Watch: Digital multimedia Shakespeare editions

Noam Lior, University of Toronto

My paper examines seven digital multimedia Shakespeare editions: TouchPress’ Sonnets, Folger’s Luminary Shakespeare, The New Book Press’ WordPlay Shakespeare, Cambridge’s ExploreShakespeare, Arden’s Heuristic Shakespeare, the Toronto-based Shakespeare at Play, and the Stratford (Ontario) Shakespeare Festival’s PerformancePlusI focus on two innovations of the multimedia edition: the inclusion of complete performance recordings (audio or video) alongside Shakespeare’s text; and the use of Web 2.0 platforms to place Shakespeare text and performance literally at users’ fingertips, encountered via the same touchscreen interface they use to interact with Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube.

Multimedia Shakespeare editions offer opportunities and challenges for artists, scholars, teachers, and learners – in particular, they promote artists as authorities capable of speaking of and for Shakespeare, while also presenting scholars as performers of a different sort (for example, by including scholars’ video and audio commentary, instead of or in addition to their writing). Thus far, these seven projects have achieved impressive results by utilizing the new opportunities afforded by emerging technologies. As multimedia editions develop, it becomes essential to discuss the new responsibilities for editors and creators of such projects: how do we select materials, annotate, and frame an edition which includes both text and performance? How can we further develop so that these two aspects of Shakespeare exist in productive engagement with one another and with our users?

A Midsummer’s Night’s Sonification: Sonic analysis of a community using A Midsummer’s Night’s Dream

Iain Emsley, Oxford e-Research Centre

Sound is being explored within Humanities. Where soundscapes, such as the Virtual St Paul’s Cathedral, reconstruct a context, our work focuses on the use of non-speech sounds for sonic analysis and exploration of data sets.

In previous work, we presented differences between editorial structures from variant texts marked up with Text Encoding Initiative XML using instruments in a binaural experience. In this multimedia paper, sound is used to explore the methods of understanding different aspects of a text, such as the communities.

Using the Bodleian Libraries’ First Folio edition of A Midsummer Night’s Dream, the balance of both speaking and non-speaking characters on stage is presented. Where the previous work created structures of speakers within the events of the play, such as exits and entrances, we look at how constructed social networks within a known play alter over time. Two versions of the analyses are presented – one focussing purely on gender and the second on gender and character – to show how sound choice and context direct our attention.

Some of the affordances used in audio as an alternate way of understanding the text and relationships are discussed. Aspects of sustainability, such as the methods used to prepare the text for sonification, the use of co-design and gaining a shared understanding, are increasingly important in research and will be discussed. Though a new method in the Humanities, we show that sonification can be useful in exploring complex, interrelated structures that change over time as a complementary technique to visualisation.

Digital Blackfriars: A multimedia experiment

Kirk Quinsland, Fordham University, and Rebecca Rouse, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute

Digital Blackfriars is a set of interrelated digital humanities projects that map the Loseley Collection (1489-1682), held by the Folger Shakespeare Library, to illuminate the connections between site and text in plays written for the Blackfriars Theatre in London. For this conference, we would present a preliminary 3D model and augmented reality prototype of the building that housed the Blackfriars Theatre and a few surrounding buildings, built in part using geospatial and relational data gathered from the Loseley Collection. This prototype also incorporates and makes visible the documents and archaeological data that produced the model itself. One research question for the first part of the project asks how the site of performance affected the writing and performance of plays in the early modern English theatrical world. We are interested in using archival research to understand these plays as site-specific or site-responsive, and recover some of what has been lost with the passage of time. The contention of this project is not simply the obvious claim that plays lose or change meanings over time, but rather that if we consider plays as site- specific or site-responsive pieces of drama, it is possible to recover meanings that we were not aware had been lost. For historical research on plays written for and produced at the Blackfriars Theatre, this project will allow researchers investigate the interaction between site and text in a way that has never before been possible, providing a visual and interactive means of navigating the archive. This research was undertaken in collaboration with Dr. Marc Destefano (RPI).

Tuesday, July 11

Exit, pursued by a database: Developing the archive

Opening the archives: DEx, a database of dramatic extracts

Beatrice Montedoro, University of Oxford

At the beginning of the seventeenth century, early modern audiences started to extract drama from both print and performances. Many of these dramatic extracts survive in printed and manuscript collections, but their elusive nature—they were often unattributed—makes the study of them particularly challenging. This paper introduces DEx: A Database of Dramatic Extracts, a digital project that aims to open up the early modern theatre archive by gathering all known dramatic extracts found in seventeenth-century manuscripts in one freely-available online database (currently live at https://dex.citd.tamu.edu, but eventually published by Iter on https://dex.itercommunity.org).

DEx allows easy access to transcriptions and essential meta-data of the dramatic extracts, and also offers researchers a place where to share their own material, so as to continually grow the corpus. The content is searchable either by manuscript, playwright, play or character, and it is possible to view the extracts in either normalised or original spelling. Moreover, each manuscript page links to the relevant library archives, but also, when applicable, CELM and the Folger First-Line Index.

By bringing together paleography, archival research, TEI, and Solr, DEx allows us to learn more about the role of dramatic extracts in theatre history, audience reception, reading practices, and early modern print and manuscript culture. This presentation demonstrates how a digital project like DEx can take information from the (sometimes inscrutable) manuscript page to the searchable, digital interface. Beyond simply sharing our work, however, this conference would afford the DEx team a great opportunity to receive feedback from digital humanists who would use this project or who are facing similar challenges with their work.

The digital theatre archive: Making the most of material for research and teaching

Claudine Nightingale, Senior Development Editor, Adam Matthew Digital

Adam Matthew Digital has partnered with a number of key theatre archives in recent years, helping to digitise unique theatre collections for the research and higher education teaching community.

Through our work with archives such as the Folger Shakespeare Library, Shakespeare’s Globe, the V&A and the Huntington Library, we have explored a variety of ways to present and enhance the digital images, which tackle the unique challenges and qualities of theatre archive material. Using our two existing resources, Shakespeare in Performance and Eighteenth Century Drama, and discussing our current project with the Shakespeare’s Globe archive, I will highlight some of the methods we have utilised to make the most of these performance materials, including approaches to indexing and metadata creation, play comparison software, cross-searchability of materials with key secondary sources, and data visualisations.

The Collection of Theatre Architecture, TU Berlin

Franziska Ritter, Technical University Berlin

The TU Berlin`s collection of Theatre Architecture with more than 10,000 archival documents provides an extensive reference to the recent history of 20th century theatre architecture. As a documentary of German theatre construction, the collection is unique in its entity, and as an original source material, it is nowhere else preserved in this form. Main attraction of the collection is the very well-preserved compilation of the German Theatre Manual: on behalf of Albert Speer (the General Construction Inspector for the Capital of the Reich) the publication of this reference book has been prepared since 1939, but never got published. It was supposed to become a benchmark of all existing theatre buildings with detailed architectural and stage-technical descriptions of around 500 theatres at that time in Germany, France, Russia, Austria, Poland, Slovenia and the Czech Republic. Portfolios with very heterogeneous archival materials (large-format diazocopies with floor plans, sections and stage construction plans, photographs and multi-page questionnaires) show an unique summary of Central European cultural buildings at the beginning of the Second World War. Furthermore, there are over 600 glass plate negatives with illustrations of historical stage technology, scene pictures and theatrical architecture from the inheritance of theatre engineer Friedrich Kranich.

In 2016 a cross-university cooperation started between Technical University Berlin (study programme Bühnenbild_Szenischer Raum and Museum of Architecture) and Beuth University of Applied Sciences Berlin (study programme Theatre Engineering), financed by the German Research Foundation. The aim of this interdisciplinary project is to secure and digitally compile the collection in the Museum of Architecture. At the moment the archive is made freely accessible at the platform and will be linked to other international databases. The digitization of the collection leads to further comparative and interdisciplinary research.

Seeing is Believing: The AusStage Database and the development of visualisation tools

Julian Meyrick, Flinders University

AusStage is the national online resource for live performance research in Australia. It comprises a freely accessible online database, and a suite of tools designed to enhance the research potential for scholars, industry and public alike. It currently holds records on over 85,000 performance events, 119,000 contributors, 13,300 organisations, 8,500 venues and 56,300 related articles, books, programs, images, videos and archival items. Development is led by a consortium of universities, government agencies, industry organisations and collecting institutions with funding from the Australian Research Council.

Over its seventeen-year history, AusStage has gone through a number of development phases that have increased its resources and flexibility.  This paper discusses Phase 6, now underway, which seeks to construct a new 2D and 3D visual interface and digital exhibition space for a crucial selection of Australian theatre venues.  For live performance, the category of venue is primary. New visualisation technologies are crucial to the provision of enhanced venue information and enabling a more diverse range of scholarly, industry, and policy applications. They provide knowledge of venues that cannot be visited because of restricted access, intensive use, historical degradation, or the fact that they no longer exist.  But they also open up venues as fundamental to understanding the way embodied space operates in the performing arts generally.  In doing so, they alter the way existing information within the database inheres, and provide ways of generating substantial new knowledge about events that are no longer experientially available.  

Reimagining performance 

Performance as research: Research as performance

Christie Carson, Royal Holloway University of London

In the recently published volume The Shakespearean World (Routledge, 2017) I have a chapter entitled  ‘Shakespearean Archives: Context, Categories and the Containment of Chaos’. This chapter provides an overview of the challenges facing scholars who are given access to too much information, theatres and theatre practitioners struggling to maintain control of the material online that represents their work and archivists whose skills are undervalued in a commercial world that provides resources to customers based on popularity rather than preserving valuable materials for future use. Shakespeare’s work both textually and in performance, like much of the online world, is being drawn away from scholarly models of open access and long term sustainability towards restrictive commercial services providing resources directly to paying customers. The creative and storage models made available in the digital world have overtaken the careful arrangement of material through libraries and scholarly projects. Typing ‘Shakespeare’ into Google will as likely return to the user scenes of the play performed by students for their high school English classes as authoritative texts, performances and scholarly commentary.

All the world really is a stage in the digital world, so how best to preserve, protect and curate valuable resources that document performance history when most online users are interested in looking forward and not back? My approach is to engage students in the processes of historical creation, through the history plays, in order to encourage them to look at their own views and the sources they rely on to create adaptations of the plays which explore and interrogate the line between fact and fiction.

Reimagining performance

Sarah Ellis, Director of Digital Development, Royal Shakespeare Company

How can we enable new possibilities on stage and expand the theatre making tool kit with new technologies? This talk will explore the interplay between text and technical possibility with the Royal Shakespeare Company’s latest production of The Tempest in collaboration with Intel and in association with The Imaginarium Studios.

Strange capers: Experiments in the archive

200 Years of the Russian Stage: Establishing a TEI-encoded corpus to gain insights into the structural evolution of drama

Irina Pavlova, National Research University Higher School of Economics, Moscow

Russian formalism has long experimented with finding patterns in smaller corpora, including corpora of dramatic texts (Yarkho 1997, Yarkho 1999/2000). However, none of these studies was as yet based on a digital, machine-readable corpus. We have set out to build a TEI-encoded corpus of Russian drama, comprising plays from the end of the 18th century to the first third of the 20th century. Following the example of Paul Fièvre’s collection of French plays, our focus is not on the digital edition of hitherto non-digital texts, but on the transformation of reliably digitised texts into the TEI-P5 standard, resorting to curated sources like ru.wikisource.org, ilibrary.ru, lib.ru and rvb.ru. Our format conversion will be an automated process (Schöch et al. 2017). Our encoding practice builds on more than 20 years of efforts to “digitise the stage” (Lavagnino et al. 1995, Gants 2006) and will focus on characters, speech acts and stage directions, formal entities crucial for a social network analysis of our hundreds of Russian plays. By help of our own network analysis tool “dramavis” (Kittel/Fischer 2017), we are able to describe the evolution of Russian drama based on structural changes of the inherent social networks (Trilcke et al. 2016; Fischer et al. 2017). Our corpus is freely available as it continues to grow and we encourage fellow researchers to enrich it with structural or linguistic information.

“Not just a pretty picture”: Digitization as a catalytic instrument in the research of early modern theatre and performance

Ildiko Solti, Kingston University, London

In the phrase “digitizing the stage”, “stage” has several interrelated connotations, each of which makes possible, and necessary, different means of “digitization”. “Stage” can describe the material object which us an architectural component of the theatre building and the actor’s “first tool” (Benedetti).  “Stage” can also be used as a shorthand for the object-in-use within the total theatrical space of which it is part, but whose comprehensive reference it often restricts (Carlson).  A less obvious but, I propose, the most complex, reference of “stage” (both as noun and verb) is the object-in use in performance, or catalytic “first frame” (Schechner) facilitating is extra-daily (Barba), expert specialist use (acting) in real time.

I will explore the implications of these meanings of “stage” in relation to the digital reconstruction of the Globe Theatre, and my use of the model in the (the now suspended) Theatron3 virtual reality program for the purpose of performance process research. I look at object replication (levels of evidence, manipulability), immersive experience of organized virtual architectural space (bird’s-eye view, virtual access to various parts of the House, and in-movement, realistic as well as only virtually possible, experience of the extra-daily movement patterns implied by the action of the play (inhabiting the avatar through the “mouse look” function, building shapes, fly-through). I will argue for making tools such as Theatron3 (or their current equivalent) available again for teaching and research, so that digitization in performance studies could continue generating questions “that we did not know how to ask” (Denard).

Tracing the stage: between text and tech

Genealogies of the text: Digital provenance and early modern drama

Meaghan Brown, Folger Shakespeare Library

The Folger’s Digital Anthology of Early Modern English Drama (EMED) is a resource for exploring over four hundred early modern English plays beyond the works of Shakespeare. For a subset of these, we are creating carefully edited, freely available documentary editions. Plays in EMED were printed before 1660 and professionally performed between 1576 and 1642. Each “play entry” brings together information about the physical makeup and content of an early playbook, about its digital representations, and its bibliographic references. We present the digital text as one of many surrogates made available through centuries of remediation. The play’s physical and digital provenance is recorded, from a link to the holding library’s catalogue record to the transcription by the Early English Books Online Text Creation Partnership, to encoded text produced by the Shakespeare His Contemporary project, to our own documentary edition. A bread-crumb style ‘encoding path’ represents this movement of text, from a single witness to digital file.

In this paper, I will present EMED, and consider the importance of transparent digital provenance. Communicating the relationship of digital objects to material books is critical to making digital editions both trustworthy and reusable in scholarly environments. The creation of reliable documentary editions of early modern plays is grounded in the kind of things that libraries have provided for some time: thorough bibliographical description, clear cataloging, and dependable access. I will reflect on the iterative remediation of these texts—the path taken from library shelf to onscreen text—as an opportunity for both critical discussion and teaching.

Early modern dramatic paratexts in print and digital archives

Sonia Massai, Kings College London, and Heidi Craig, University of Toronto

Our paper focuses on the benefits and challenges involved in expanding and digitizing Berger and Massai’s The Paratexts in English Printed Drama to 1642 edition (CUP, 2014). This edition offers modern readers access to a rich early modern print archive of materials about the status of English drama from the emergence of print drama to the closure of the theatres in 1642.

Our paper reflects on how Paratexts could be expanded and radically re-conceptualized as a digital edition or database. What should an expanded version include and why? Should Paratexts be expanded to include dramatic paratexts printed during the theatre ban of 1642 to 1660, when performance declined but dramatic publication flourished, and commentators sought to articulate the nature and value of plays amidst the silence of the stage, or should it be expanded further (for example, to the year 1709)? Or should non-dramatic paratexts to 1642 (or 1660) be made readily accessible alongside dramatic paratexts from the same time period? We are also interested in establishing how the digital medium could enhance access to these documents and to the primary texts they originally framed and how one negotiates practical challenges, including the practical matter of transcription (and the ethics of using EEBO-TCB) or the tension between commercial copyright and pay-walls, on the one hand, and the current move towards open-access resources, on the other.

Wednesday, July 12

Digitizing the Bard: Reimagining the Shakespeare Archive

On Provenance: Adventures with Shakespeare in Cyberspace

Pip Willcox and David De Roure, Oxford

On 23 April 2014, we published a TEI-XML encoded edition of the Bodleian’s First Folio of Shakespeare’s plays to accompany the high resolution images released a year previously, on Shakespeare’s 449th birthday. This paper relates why this copy of the First Folio (Bodleian Arch. G c.7) is of interest, particularly to the Bodleian, and the crowd-funded work that led to its publication online.

The W3C provenance standard, the PROV Family of Documents, provides a data model for encoding the interoperable interchange of information about provenance across heterogeneous environments. Its recommendations can be used to describe the provenance of analogue as well as digital pieces of data or things.

This paper describes our use of PROV-N (the Provenance Notation) to test the viability of using PROV to describe the analogue and digital life of the First Folio. This work tests the limits of the PROV standard to model plurality, uncertainty, and disagreement, as well as its ability to assign credit to the research and the researchers that created the knowledge that underpins the provenance assertions.

We suggest that while Arch. G c.7 is a unique instance of the First Folio, the questions that arise from describing its provenance computationally are common to all digitized or edited books. Agreement on and implementation of such standards across the scholarly and library communities will enhance discovery and access through interoperability, and enable a more nuanced machine-readability of the archive.

Filming and archiving performance at Shakespeare’s Globe

Victoria Lane, Shakespeare’s Globe

The Archive at Shakespeare’s Globe contains a unique set of recordings of nearly all productions since the Prologue Season in 1996. Several performances of each play are recorded to show the arc of each production and we use multiple static cameras, each placed at different angles to the stage.

This paper will discuss the development of the audio-visual archive, which has been part of the vision for the Globe since the 1980s, and its relationship to research. The first Director of Research, Professor Andrew Gurr (1995-2002) viewed the creation of such an archive as a key component in documenting the experiments at the Globe on Shakespeare in performance. Starting as VHS recordings the videos have become digital and we are in the process of developing a platform to access the recordings.

Reimagining the Folger Collections: Making Peace between Paper and Digital

Eric Johnson, Folger Shakespeare Library

Abstract forthcoming.


The Screen’s the thing: Performance multimedia and pedagogy

The MIT Global Shakespeares Merchant module, in 2017

Diana E. Henderson, MIT

I propose to share the newest iteration of my Global Shakespeares Merchant module, a five-week online course that leads students from introductions to scansion and the troubled history of The Merchant of Venice through to a final project in which they create a scene of their own.  At present, I have used this module as a supplement to my residential class, but am now also sharing it with a limited set of colleagues and their students for independent testing, in anticipation of its broader release as a free-standing experience in the autumn 2017.  The site includes rehearsal and interview footage directly recorded during The Merchant in Venice’s summer 2016 run, and tries to capture actual humanities pedagogies within its design.

Teaching the digitized stage: pedagogy in the archives

Erin Sullivan, Shakespeare Institute, University of Birmingham

What happens to the way we teach theatre when its archives go online? This talk will survey five very different digital archives for performance and early modern drama, and consider how each provides new opportunities and challenges for students learning about the complexities of theatre history, historiography, and performance analysis. By looking at the Henslowe-Alleyn Digitisation Project, the Internet Shakespeare Edition’s ‘Shakespeare in Performance’ section, the Shakespeare Institute’s Virtual Manuscript Room, the Royal Shakespeare Company’s main website, and Cheek by Jowl’s Sophie Hamilton Archive online, the presentation will explore the many different ways there are to create digital archives and the equally different ends to which they can be used. A recurring topic throughout the presentation will be my own experience of teaching a recurring course on performance research and methodology to postgraduate students at the Shakespeare Institute in Stratford-upon-Avon, some of whom study onsite and many more of whom study online by distance learning. Through these experiences I’ll reflect on what sorts of digital archives seem to work best for particular groups of students, as well as what the ‘ideal archive’ for student researchers might look like, if it indeed exists.